Is Wine Vegan? The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Cruelty-Free Wine

A closer look at the wine filtration process answers our question.

Detail of Assorted Wines
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Most wine is not vegan, which may come as a devastating surprise. After all, isn't wine just fermented grapes?

On the contrary, animal-derived products often play a role in winemaking processes. Fining agents like gelatin and isinglass are added to the wine barrel to remove impurities and yeast left over from fermentation. Although these fining agents are eventually removed, the process itself renders the wine non-vegan.

Luckily, some vintners opt for vegan-friendly fining agents like silica, kaolin, and activated charcoal instead of animal products. Unfined wines, too, can offer vegans a chance to imbibe. We’ll toast to that.

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Your best bet is to choose wine with a vegan label on the bottle. U.S. labeling laws don't require winemakers to disclose all ingredients, so it's virtually impossible to tell from the ingredient list whether your wine was filtered through animal-derived products.

Why Most Wine Is Not Vegan

Conventional winemaking techniques make most wine unsuitable for vegans.

Most commercially produced wine goes through two separate filtration processes. The first round of fining (or clarifying) removes “cloudiness"—floating sediment composed of yeast and other tiny particles too small to manually filter out. The second round removes any bacteria and sterilizes the wine for consumption before bottling.

The key issue for vegans is the fining process. Winemakers add a substance called a fining agent to the barrel to make it easier to filter sediment out of the wine. This fining agent is often an animal product like gelatin or isinglass.

Here's a quick look at some common non-vegan fining agents used in winemaking:

  • Gelatin encompasses the proteins produced by collagen from the boiled and hydrolyzed skin, bones, and connective tissues of cattle, chicken, pigs, and fish.
  • Chitin is the long-chain polymer found in the exoskeletons of crustaceans, insects, mollusks, cephalopods, fish, and amphibians.
  • Isinglass is a form of collagen made from dried swim bladders of fish.
  • Fish oil is a source of fat or oil from the tissues of fish.
  • Albumen is the clear liquid inside an egg (egg white).
  • Casein is the protein found in mammalian milk.

Animal products have also appeared in wine as part of the cork. Historically, the adhesive was made from gelatin or casein, although now most cork uses polyurethane.

In addition, both ancient and contemporary winemakers have occasionally used beeswax to seal the jars or bottles. Today, however, you're most likely to encounter a bottle sealed with paraffin (a petroleum derivative), or no seal at all.

When Is Wine Vegan?

Vegan wine comes in two broad categories. The first is wine made with vegan-friendly fining agents like bentonite clay, activated charcoal, and silica. The second is wine that is unfined, meaning it was filtered without the use of fining agents.

Unfined wine allows the alcohol to age or settle for a period of time so that the yeast particles naturally collect at the bottom of the barrel under the force of gravity. The wine is then racked, and the clear wine is siphoned into a new barrel, leaving the unwanted sediment at the bottom of the previous barrel. (This can often translate to a higher-priced bottle than wines that underwent the fining process.)

In either case, vegan wines are likely to be labeled as such because their unique processing is a selling point for customers. Since vegans are a growing demographic, more and more wine companies are letting customers know their product is safe to drink. 

Vegan Wine Labels

Keep an eye out for “V,” “vegan,” “veg,” or other vegan symbols on the wine bottle indicating its vegan status. You can also research your favorites on Barnivore or look for a bottle boasting the BeVeg or Vegan Wines certifications. 

Another option is to look for a kosher wine label. Kosher wines cannot contain animal byproducts like isinglass, casein, or gelatin, which means they are often also vegan-friendly. Check with the manufacturer to confirm that your next bottle of kosher wine is also vegan.

Vegan wine labels are important because, unfortunately, it's difficult to know exactly what’s in your wine. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the government agency responsible for food safety and nutritional labeling, does not regulate alcohol — that is the jurisdiction of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). The TTB does not require all alcohol producers to disclose all their ingredients, so unless a wine bottle is clearly labeled vegan, it's best to assume that it may contain animal products.

Types of Vegan Wine

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Wine can vary from vegan to non-vegan with vintage and variety—even from the same vineyard. Companies including Sutter Home, Berringer, Cupcake, and Yellowtail, for example, offer both vegan and non-vegan wines. Be sure to check the label for a vegan designation, or do your research on vegan-friendly bottles before you shop. Alternatively, you can choose from one of these wine companies that exclusively supply vegan wines. 

  • Alfaro 
  • Avaline
  • Bellissima Prosecco
  • Frey Vineyards
  • Girasole
  • Layer Cake
  • Moët & Chandon/Dom Perignon
  • Natura Wines
  • Querciabella
  • Red Truck Wines

Types of Non-Vegan Wine

For many vegans, it’s disappointing to learn that your favorite brand isn’t actually just grapes and yeast. While the list is not exhaustive, these top-selling brands regularly use traditional, animal-product fining methods.

  • Apothic
  • Barefoot
  • Black Box
  • Franzia
  • Carlo Rossi
  • Robert Mondavi/Woodbridge
  • Gallo/Twin Valley
Frequently Asked Questions
  • Can vegans drink wine?

    Yes—if that wine is labeled vegan. It is important to note that the majority of commercially produced wines are not vegan because they were processed using animal products. 

  • How do I know if a wine is vegan?

    To guarantee your wine is vegan, look for a bottle or a brand with a vegan label (usually "V," "Vegan" or "Veg"). Winemakers don't have to list every ingredient on the bottle, so just reviewing the ingredient list isn't enough to determine that the wine is vegan.

  • What is the difference between vegan wine and traditional wine?

    Traditional wine uses animal products during the fining process. Vegan wine either uses non-animal products in the fining process or is unfined. There is no discernible taste difference between vegan and non-vegan wine.